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What In The World Does The Chief Justice Of Pakistan Even Do?

What In The World Does The Chief Justice Of Pakistan Even Do?


We all know the post, but that’s really all we know about one of the most powerful positions in our country. We have an idea of what the Chief Justice of our country can do, but most of us aren’t exactly sure what his job is supposed to be. So here at Propergaanda, we decided to do a little research and see what exactly falls under the role of the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

His first, and most obvious duty is his job as the most senior judge in the most senior court. As the chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he has two major functions.

  1. The first is to make the benches for the court. In the Supreme Court of Pakistan, most cases are presided over by 3-5 judges, called benches. The chief justice’s job is to decide who sits on what bench for the week.
  2. The second duty he has is to decide which cases go to which bench. So after deciding the benches, he also has the power to see what cases each bench will see.

Because the law can be subjective at times, their ends up being a variety of different interpretations of these laws. As a result, it is the job of the chief justice to create balanced benches. This also gives him power to try and predetermine cases, but only to a certain degree.

Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council

His next duty is as the head of the Supreme Judicial Council. For those who do not know, the duty of the Supreme Judicial Council is to deal with complaints against the judges within the High court and Supreme Court. The composition of the 5 member Council is set out in the constitution as:

  1. The Chief Justice
  2. The two next most senior judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan
  3. The two most senior Chief Justices of the provincial High Courts

Where the council is investigating a member of the council he is replaced by the next most senior judge. So if let’s say a petition is filed against the Chief Justice of Pakistan, this body will review the case without him. Now anyone can bring a petition against a judge but it wasn’t always the case.

Up until 2008, only the president would be allowed to file such petitions within the council.  In 2007, President Pervez Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and referred him to the Council on charges of corruption. However, Chaudhry contested the ability of the Council to form without the Chief Justice himself present, and the Council hearing was suspended by the Supreme Court.

This was the first time a president had filed a petition against the chief justice, and this was the first time a petition by the president was challenged by the Chief Justice. His suspension would lead to the 2007 state of emergency, and reshape Pakistan as we know it. After the reinstatement of the judiciary, anyone could now file a petition against a judge.

While this council hasn’t been the most active, it has taken action in recent years. Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui was removed after making serious allegations against personnel of a security agency, claiming that they were manipulating judicial proceedings.

Justice Farrukh Irfan Khan resigned as a judge of the Lahore High Court before his review finished. A petition was filed against him after his name surfaced in the Panama Papers list of individuals with offshore companies. He was accused of running his business for a year after taking over as a high court judge.

Chairman of the Judicial Commission

The job of the judicial commission is to appoint judges within the high court and the Supreme Court. His job has chairman means he is in charge of running the commission. The commission consists of the Chief Justice, 4 of the senior most judges of the Supreme court after the Chief Justice, an member of the Bar council (elected by the bar), the law minister, Attorney General and a retired judge. The retired judge is also selected by the chief justice, and serves for one year. If they are appointing a High court judge, then the commission will also include 2 of the most senior judges(chief justice and below him) of that province, and a member of the provincial bar.

Chairman of the Law Commission

The next chairman the chief justice is of the law commission. The duty of the law commission is to examine laws and recommend changes to the legislature. However, this is not the most active of institutions. The Law Commission of Pakistan comprises OF the Chief Justice of Federal Shariat Court, Chief Justices of the High Courts, Attorney General for Pakistan, Secretary, Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights and the Chairperson of National Commission on the Status of Women.

Chairman of the National Judicial Policy Making Committee (NJPMC)

The final committee that the Chief Justice is in charge of is this one. All the Chief Justices of the courts are a part of this committee, which sole purpose is to examine policies related to the judiciary, and how to improve the judicial process. It’s pretty simple.

As you can see, the Chief Justice of Pakistan has a lot of work to do. But I know most of you want to understand more about the powers the chief justice has within the country. And more importantly, what in the world is Suo Moto?

Article 184(3)/ Suo Moto

Now Article 184(3) is what gives the Chief Justice, and the Supreme Court, the power of Suo moto. Under article 184(3), the Supreme Court can take up cases that fit a certain criteria. They are;

  1. Violation of fundamental human rights
  2. Matter of Public Importance

Now let’s get one thing start. Anyone can file a petition under article 184(3), however it won’t be a Suo Moto. Suo Moto is only called Suo Moto when the courts decide to take action on a case. Filing a petition with the Supreme Court through article 184(3) would have to go through the same criteria as a Suo Moto, but it wasn’t launched by the Judiciary, so it isn’t Suo Moto.

If you hadn’t noticed, I kept saying the Supreme Court has the power to use this. They are no major rules besides the criteria levels out. Most of the time, the Chief Justice of Pakistan carries it out. However, any judge of the Supreme Court can do so. The most popular case was the Faizabad sit in by Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

So why do some chief justices use it more?

Honestly, this is up to the justice themselves. Our laws, like most countries, can be vague and open to interpretation. As a result, different justices will regard laws differently. When the law was made, it was intended to be use restrictively. However, the vague wording of the law leave room for interpretation and as such, implementation.  In the 1970’s, Article 184(3) was used more often. Beginning with former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry’s restoration in 2009, and ending with former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, the Supreme Court has moved away from earlier precedents and has significantly expanded the use of its original jurisdiction.

More controversially, in a number of cases, the Court’s exercise of its ‘fundamental rights jurisdiction’ appears to be inconsistent with the protection and promotion of human rights, and based more on political calculations rather than a bona fide and appropriate (even if expansive) legal interpretation of ‘public importance’ or the identification or clarification of ‘fundamental rights’. The biggest example of this is Chief Justice Nasir’s Suo Moto that led to the creation of the Damn fund.

What is the current Chief Justice doing?

Well he’s playing the game at a lower key. Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa has taken up important cases within his tenure, but as only used Suo Moto once. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa took suo motu notice of former intelligence official and defence analyst Brigadier (r) Asad Munir’s alleged suicide. Munir allegedly committed suicide, after the emergence of media reports that NAB has decided to file a reference of abuse of office against him.

His calmer attitude towards the suo moto could easily be a reaction to the previous chief justice’s legacy. What this all shows to us is that the Chief Justice of Pakistan has a lot of power over different parts of the judiciary. Also noted is how different chief justices can act different, showcases how vague the rules that govern the Chief Justice are. It really depends on who gets appointed.